Monday, August 6, 2012

on your honor

I spent the week at Lake Canandagua in New York.  It's a beautiful and quiet place. 

misty morning on the lake

In fact, if I had thousands of readers, I wouldn't dare mention it for fear of ruining the serenity of the place. 

moon over the mountain

But really, since there aren't too many of you, you should go. 

cattails on the marshy end

We go to unplug and check out.  We fish, sit, swim, sit, kayak, sit...You get the picture. 

gareth lounging on the kayak

One thing I get to do on this vacation is ride my bike. 

On one of my rides, I came across a little roadside stand selling garlic. 

Just garlic.  Oh, and one bunch of beets.  I didn't take a picture (darn).

There wasn't an attendant.  Just a handwritten sign that said "Garlic $2.00" and a little metal box with a slit in the top where I was expected to put my money. 

I put my money in the box and took my container of garlic, feeling a mix of pride for having paid and paranoia that someone might think I hadn't.  In fact, I wanted to look around to see if anyone had taken note as I put the correct number of dollars in the box, but I also worried that if I did look around, a person watching might find that suspicious, as if I were planning to steal something. 

I live in a big metropolitan area.  I'm clearly not used to being trusted. 

I discovered that I really liked it. 

This, apparently, is not uncommon.  I remembered a story I heard on NPR about honor system vegetable stands.  They explained that it's a win-win.  The farmer gets to stay in the field, practicing his trade instead of babysitting his customers. We get a good feeling from being trusted while we also get something delicious that we wanted. 

I agree.  Win-Win.  And win.

As I rode my bike past other stands, I felt lifted, happy that I proved to be the kind of person who wouldn't pilfer pints of pretty blueberries from hardworking farmers.  These farmers gave me that good feeling, and for that, I wanted all the more to prove worthy--and to buy their produce. 

Blueberries like these go for $5.00 a pint at the markets where I live.  Could we put them out on the corner and expect to collect? 

blueberries for $3.50/pint

A psychologist in the NPR story claims that 25% of people are honest, 25% are mostly honest, 25% are dishonest, and 25% are erratic.  That's 75% of us that at least have a shot at doing the right thing.  I think those are pretty good odds.  Although I guess it still means that eventually, someone's going to take the blueberries.

In a small community, where you regularly run into the farmer buying eye-hooks and picture hangers in the hardware store, and your kids go to school together, I bet the odds are even better that you wouldn't slip an extra zucchini into your bag--or run off with the cash box for that matter.  In a larger community, however, I imagine feelings of anonymity might make it easier to cheat your neighbor out of a turnip or two. 

But I believe even us big city folks can be trusted too, if you give us a chance.  I'm thinking my friend Jay should try this to remedy his tomato emergency (and the many other vegetable related emergencies he has coming down the pike). 

For the record, the stands I passed didn't have the air of emergency about them.  This one only had a few cucumbers for sale when I went by.  The whole garden even lay in the background, asking to be pillaged--or perhaps just hoping to be admired.

7 cukes for sale

all organic produce 
cukes $.50   3 for $1.40
zucchini $.75 each

For me, a tourist, I felt privileged to move through this rural world where neighbors share produce with trust and goodwill.  

I took my garlic, slid my $2.00 into the little metal box, and hopped back on my bike, feeling a tall, worthy, and grateful member of the 75%.


  1. it's so nice to hear of people living this way. can't leave my car unlocked in northern va. oh, wait. i can't even leave my car locked. it was stolen.

    thanks for reminding me i may want to move :)

    1. aahh - you're car was stolen? that is AWFUL. that is such an invasive feeling. yes, every time we go to canandagua we talk about moving...

  2. Thank you for a wonderful article about our region. We are so lucky to not only have the beauty of the Finger Lakes but also to have such kind and friendly people living and VISITING us TOO!

    1. your welcome! just returned from a visit last week and had a wonderful time, as usual!